I recently heard a therapist speak to a men’s group I’m a part of, she specializes in counseling men as they go through life trying to be good husbands and fathers. She noted that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than females, primarily because we’re taught at a young age to compartmentalize our emotions and not share our feelings. Think how many times you might have heard “Boys don’t cry” or “Be a man”, these stereotypes are ingrained at a young age. Her practice is devoted to getting men to be more vulnerable and communicate their needs instead of bottling them up.
It really got me thinking about my role as a father, husband, and business owner. We’re in this unique time in history where there’s so much awareness of the challenges that women have faced in the workplace and at home. In my opinion, it’s a long overdue conversation and we all need to continue working toward solving the problem. However, this therapist went on to say that she hopes the feelings of men don’t get lost in the conversation. That’s what really got me thinking of how I can be a better man.
As I’m writing this post, I’m on a plane to Kansas City. I came home late from work last night to my six-year-old daughter telling me that I’m always working, taking trips and not at home. She guilted me more than anyone could ever guilt me, but then I remembered what the therapist had said: “Guys, remember this; time spent is about the quality of time, not necessarily quantity.” When I’m with my family, I’m present and attentive, I’m not playing on my phone with one eye while trying to listen with another ear. I’m actively doing an art project with my daughter or Legos with my son, and they get all of me. Studies have shown that children value five minutes of total attention more than one hour of partial attention. I try to remember this as I’m getting guilted for working too much.
We’ve got a tough responsibility of being a man in today’s world, especially considering how most of us were raised and taught what to do with our feelings. The key is creating an environment for open communication; talk about what you need so you can be a better father and husband, and then make sure those needs are met. We must learn to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. I’m now more deliberate about creating environments where I can share my feelings and get “stuff” off my mind and out in the open: men’s group, poker night, or a date night with my wife.
Women are much better at this that we are. Being a mom is possibly the hardest job on the planet, but their nature is to share feelings and be vulnerable with each other. Their ability to communicate needs and have an outlet is much more natural. That’s why you see mom’s groups, book clubs, mom’s night out, or just a simple lunch on the calendar. It’s not necessarily that they have more outlets than men; they just know what to do with that time. We’ll talk about work and watch a football game for three hours without saying a word; fist pump, high-five, and good to go!
Cheers to the men out there that want to be better. I’m raising a glass to let you know that you’re not alone. We’ve got a great responsibility as fathers and husbands, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything life could offer. But if any of you need someone to grab a drink with and just have someone to listen, give me a call. Let’s all be better together!